ERIE, PA—Fast-food consumer Don Turnbee announced Monday that the Taco Bell in the Millcreek Mall food court is "not as good" as regular, full-service Taco Bell restaurants.
Turnbee, a frequent patron of the full-service Taco Bell on Buffalo Road, encountered the scaled-down version of the Mexican-style franchise Sunday afternoon while waiting for his wife Shelly to complete her shopping.
"It was so-so," Turnbee told reporters outside the mall. "It's not as nice as the one I usually go to. This one had tacos and burritos, but no Double Decker Tacos."
Unlike a regular Taco Bell, the Millcreek Taco Bell Express has a reduced menu that does not offer many of the choices or add-on options to which Turnbee is accustomed, including the carne asada steak upgrade.
"I tried to add steak to something, and the girl got mad," Turnbee said. "I guess maybe she was tired of people ordering stuff they didn't have."
Turnbee finally settled on a Combo Burrito and a large Pepsi, but said he found the burrito's taste to be "kind of off."
"[The Combo Burrito] wasn't as good as normal," Turnbee said. "I don't know. The beef was crumbly, I guess."
"It seemed dry," he added.
Although the regular and express Taco Bells share an ingredients supplier, the dryness of Turnbee's burrito might have resulted from Taco Bell Express policy, which requires that five Combo Burritos be ready under the food lamps at lunchtime.
Turnbee's dissatisfaction also extended to the layout of the food court. Accustomed to the Buffalo Road restaurant's bright dining area with vaulted ceiling, sturdy booths, and a fully stocked napkin, condiment, and straw counter, Turnbee was dismayed by the food court's long lines and ill-defined, drafty space. Forced to walk far from the Taco Bell kiosk to the other side of the packed food court, he said he was displeased by the narrow width of his table and found his chair to be rickety and unstable. Huge potted palm trees placed throughout the food court blocked Turnbee's vision and gave him a vaguely claustrophobic feeling.
"I like a booth," Turnbee said.
Turnbee also found fault with the food court's shared condiments counter, which lacked forks and hot sauce.
"I went without," Turnbee said. "It seemed like too big a production to go all the way back to the Taco Bell and ask for hot sauce."
Turnbee was disturbed by the clash of food odors in the dining area. Seated next to a shopper who had ordered from Wok 'n' Roll, a Chinese-food vendor, Turnbee found that the odor of broccoli interfered with the taste of his burrito.
"I don't like broccoli, and I didn't like having to smell it while I was trying to eat," Turnbee said. "They should divide the dining area into different sections so people who order from different stalls don't eat together."
Turnbee's 20-minute ordeal ended when his wife Shelly discovered him behind a large potted palm.
"Shelly was mad that I ate when I knew she was defrosting steaks for dinner," Turnbee said. "I didn't argue."
Turnbee discarded the remainder of his burrito and soda, something the veteran fast-food patron "doesn't normally do," according to wife Shelly.
"Don doesn't normally like to come with me to the mall, either, but he likes this type of sock they sell at Sears," Shelly said.
Turnbee said that, while he has no plans to eat at the mall Taco Bell in the near future, a return visit is not out of the question.
"I guess I'd probably eat there again, if push came to shove and there was no other Taco Bell around," Turnbee said.